#3: The Issue of Nonfree Video Games

This post will use the terms "free" and "nonfree" to refer to freedom, not price. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, see here.

This is an issue that is not often discussed, and I've yet to find any articles or posts regarding it from the Free Software Foundation. The closest I've found is this article by Richard Stallman about nonfree and DRM-infested video games in the world of GNU/Linux, but this doesn't address the underlying issue.

Modern free video games are unheard of today, and that's just the sad fact. To play only free video games is to play only low quality games often designed as clones of other proprietary games, or to play old retro games that are free (such as The Oregon Trail). The FSF, and as it seems the entire free software community, seems to primarily focus on the importance of free utilities, such as the operating system, web browser, core utilities, and other programs such as image editor or document editor. However, if we want the free software movement to succeed (it is doing well but we have a long way to go), we need a bigger variety of high quality stable free video games, available for all platforms (including nonfree ones such as the Xbox or Nintendo Switch).

I talked to Dr. Richard Stallman about this issue, and it seems that we disagree on the importance of bringing freedom to gaming. To quote Stallman directly, "I disagree...because the most important point about free software is a nonfree program does you an injustice if you run it. We need to get that message across, because it is the central point of the free software movement."

Where Stallman is mistaken is that he believes that video gamers can be convinced to ditch nearly all video games for "freedom". Without any high quality alternatives, this simply will not happen in the real world. If a free operating system like GNU/Linux didn't exist today, would people who cared about freedom refuse to use computers?

Stallman also states that he doesn't know of any way to promote the development of high quality free games. "To do it by raising money is difficult because it costs a lot of money -- and spending the money does not guarantee success." If this is the case, then what does the Free Software Foundation raise money for? There are plenty of game developers who would love to work on a free game, especially if they got to charge for the final product (free software can be ethically sold). If listed as a priority project by the Free Software Foundation, while no immediate effects would happen, attention would be brought to the issue, and we may see something come out of it in the future.

We need to stop sweeping this issue under the rug, and acknowledge that the video game art form is being corrupted by proprietary greed while nothing is being done.